Learning How to be Okay with not being Okay

…But I’m learning a lot.

I am. But I’m also bombarded with uncertainty, insecurity, and nervousness throughout my learning journey. There is a lot of work that goes into everyday. I’m adjusting and preparing resources for daily lessons and trying to figure out Hamlet at the same time. The best part of this journey is that I’m willing to fight for it, because it’s all I’ve ever wanted out of a career. The people make me happy to be where I am. However, I still wake up every morning afraid I’m not good enough.

This week, the most important target I’ve been working on is being dynamic and giving energy in the classroom to help build engagement. My confidence and energy waned as I was allowing myself to be consumed by negative thoughts. The first class that I actively tried to be positive and bring energy, was an amazing experience and made me feel better in just 55 minutes.

In addition to my classroom experience, the communications outside of the classroom have made a huge difference for me as well. The google community for English majors has been the greatest support system I could have asked for. The best thing for people going through difficult time, is to know that you’re not alone. The google community does that, but is also a space to gather ideas to help with my learning. That is also, why I wanted to include my mental state and emotional experience in this blog reflection. I want other interns to know that I will not be silent, so that they know that if they’re getting down on themselves they’re not alone.

Finally, I have taken this quote (shared by a fellow intern) to heart. I am only in the first month of a lifelong journey. There will be many failures and successes to come. As I learn, I will make my teaching better. Right now, I can only be my best self. This hit home after reading one of my students journal responses. The prompt asked them to consider how they’re reading of a story changed from when they read it with the reader response lens and then when they read it with multiple lenses (gender, social class, and postcolonial). The student said that he had reflected more on his thinking than the ideas in the stories. He said that he was questioning his judgement and, more or less, becoming more critical of common sense ideas. Lastly, he said that because of this, he was enjoying English class for the first time. How could I be so negative, when this was happening for some of my students? I might not be a master teacher, but I care and I can be there and do my best. From this moment it will be deep breaths in and out, long nights planning, but satisfaction knowing that learning is going on (on both sides).

… We’re learning a lot. AND we’re afraid sometimes. That’s life. That’s okay.

Advertisements

Taking Care of Myself During Internship

the screamI am one month into my internship. I am being challenged and rewarded in so many ways everyday. I have worked out my first evaluation with my coop and it has given me specific areas to work at, which I am thankful to have. My targets are better for it and I think my growth will be greater as well. I am also coming to the end of my first unit. I have been reflective throughout and will write blog posts on specific reflections, but for this blog post I wanted to be reflective on my feelings and overall health. Everything is so fast paced that it can be difficult to think everything through and prepare myself the way I wish I could.

First of all, people aren’t kidding when they say schools are full of germs and thus people who work in them often get sick. I have been fighting a flu of some sort since the beginning of the school year. It sucks the energy out of me and makes the dreaded energy drinks necessary when I need to plan, but feel the need to nap. Fortunately, I have been healthy enough not to have to miss any school. I really do not enjoy making sub plans or coming back to class and not knowing where my students are at. Hopefully, I am able to stay strong enough to keep this up.

There is another illness I have been facing and working to remain healthy against. And the liminal space I currently occupy as an intern has made this a challenge for me as well. My anxiety continues to be a daily struggle, but one I have been able to stay strong against. However, there are days when my thoughts get the better of me and I have to work to remind myself that being overly critical of myself is not helpful. I work hard to think constructively, because that is all I can do with my “failures” or “weaknesses.”

Overall, I am thankful that I have a strong support system and many ways to find help when I need advice on ways to improve my teaching. While, learning and teaching are the main focus of internship. Taking care of myself is also necessary if I want to be able to be successful. I can do little with a tired mind, so I am doing what I can when I can to be proactive in staying healthy.

Making Connections and Building Rapport

As I will soon be entering into my internship, I’ve been considering rapport and classroom management. I’ve been thinking about the human connection and interaction part of education that can get lost in some discussions about educational theories and teaching methods. I find myself getting caught up in overthinking unit and lesson planning, but lately I’ve been thinking about those first moments. I’ve been thinking about how to make meaningful connections and build the kind of classroom rapport that will help with classroom management and build the learning environment I desire.

To do so, I believe I will need to take some risks. I can be a shy and introverted person, but I can also be an emotional and passionate person. I hope to find a balance that allows my students to see and trust me as their teacher. I wrote a blog post, “Considering Privilege as an Educator,” in which I put myself ‘out there’ more than I had been previously comfortable doing. It was the most rewarding post I’ve written, because I was being honest and I was making connections as an individual. When I allowed myself to be completely honest, I was able to make the connections between theory and my personal experiences.

As a high school student, I lived with some degree of anxiety almost constantly. In my last two years, I was often sick to my stomach before I left for school and there were days I stayed home because the anxiety was too much. Despite being overwhelmed, I was able to be very successful as a student. Despite being frequently consumed by worry, I was able to smile and hide this fact from my teachers and peers. I didn’t talk about my feelings and I never publicly let on that I was struggling. When I did voice my concern over grades or my fear of failure, others laughed it off, because it seemed an impossibility to them. This made talking about my anxiety difficult. Not only was I embarrassed that I was struggling this way, I felt ashamed. Worst of all, I felt as though I was alone in feeling that way. I have since opened up more, I have come to terms with myself, and I have found some ways to manage my anxiety. However, it has not completely left me either. I do view it as a part of my identity and I know that it informs aspects of my teacher identity as well.

I’m not quite sure what I want to do or say, but I want to be honest with my students. I want them to, as Chris Friend shared with me, in his comment on the aforementioned post, “think of me as a person who is sharing experience/insight with them, rather than a dictator sharing a curriculum with them.” I believe this connection will be important, as I know that I am not the only person who lives with anxiety. Chris Friend also reminded me to “think how vulnerable your students are when they submit their essays for grading” and how “they’ll appreciate a bit of equity” if I allow myself to be vulnerable.

In one of my (pre) pre-internship experiences, I had one of my grade eight student break down crying during what was supposed to be a fun and silly writing activity. I had asked the students to write any introductory sentence down, fold their paper and hand it to the next person who would write the second sentence down without knowing the first sentence. We were nearly done one round, when he raised his hand and I saw him in tears. He hadn’t written his introductory sentence down, because he didn’t know what he should write. It broke my heart and I knew exactly how he felt. I gave encouragement, the option to complete the activity, and helped him to do so when he told me he wanted to. I did my best then to comfort him, but I know now that what I really want is to be able to create openness in my classroom before something like this happens. I believe that if I can share my experiences as a person, my students will be able to connect with me and have trust in me.

My plan is to share my voice. I have the opportunity to make a difference and I will do everything I can to do so. The connections we make are incredibly important and will certainly set the tone of the learning environment. I will end with a question, because we can always learn from each other. How have you gone about building rapport with your students? How do you set up these conversations early in the year?